Creative Gardener Hosts Mini-Tour

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Monsoon rains and higher humidity levels have at last allowed the leafing out of most native oaks and shrubs. Roadsides are greening up, and weeds abound in our gardens. One man's weed can be another man's wildflower, and it takes keen observation of nature and knowledge of seedlings to distinguish plants as they emerge from underground.

JoAnne Chilcoat is a passionate gardener who holds a great reverence for all living things, carefully eradicating that which does not fit in her version of Eden, and encouraging what does. Using no chemical pesticides or herbicides, and only animal manure and compost for fertilizer, in eight short years, she has coaxed a relatively bare spot of land in Flowing Springs into a nature lover's paradise.

The property is about 9/10 of an acre in size, and about 3/4 of it is in garden. Birds, bees and butterflies abound, flitting from feeder to flowers laden with nectar to seed-bearing grasses and shrubs. Lizards, toads, spiders and squirrels are also welcome to claim their spot in this verdant oasis, and do their work in the web of life.

Featured in the current issue of "Country Homes, Country Gardens" Magazine, Chilcoat claims she does not have a master plan for her garden. Wandering through the winding pathways between freeform raised beds of day lilies, old roses, Russian sage, succulents, ground covers and hollyhocks, planted in and around native trees and interspersed with specimen shrubs she thought "interesting," it is obvious, the "plan" is in her head, and emerges from her hands. She bought a rock breaking jackhammer a few years back, and says it's the best garden tool a girl could have. When needed, a friend brings a small bulldozer in to dig a depression or water feature, move around large boulders, or spread topsoil over a large area. Friends drop off bags of leaf mold and pine needles to be mixed into the compost and mulch mixes.

Native shrubs and wildflowers are encouraged to bloom where nature plants them, and Chilcoat is slow to pull them out until she is sure what they are, and whether or not they will fit into the overall landscape. Starts for garden plants are gleaned from gardening friends, and other plants are started from seed, and she is always willing to share plants of which she has an abundance.

Plants are placed according to color, height, texture and bloom time, so something is always in bloom in a group while others are getting ready, or declining and forming seed.

Chilcoat works in her garden for several hours every day because she would prefer to be there rather than anywhere else, and is willing to share anything she knows about gardening with anyone who would like to learn.

Her garden "Backwoods" will be open to the public from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sept. 7 and 14. This garden "mini-tour" is sponsored by the High Country Garden club and a $2 donation will be collected at the gate. Turn east on Flowing Springs Road off Highway 87 north of Payson to the community of Flowing Springs, and follow the signs.

This month in Rim Country Gardens, it is time to: Plant the fall garden by setting out cabbage and celery plants, and seeds for beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, chard, kohlrabi, lettuce, radishes, spinach, turnips and rutabagas. Feed trees and shrubs with an all-purpose tree and shrub fertilizer, or side-dress and then dig in rotted compost around the drip-line. Maintain dead-heading annual flowers to coax another month or so of bloom, cut back summer blooming perennials to the basal rosette as they finish blooming.

Harvest lavender, yarrow, cockscomb, amaranth, roses and grass seed heads for drying for fall and winter bouquets. Hang bunches upside-down in a dark, well-ventilated spot. Then thoroughly dry, store wrapped in newspaper in a covered box.

Check drip systems for leaks, and adjust watering times according to rainfall amounts.

Barb Bourscheidt is a longtime resident of Payson, a member of the Rim Area Gardeners and a participant in the Gila County Master Gardener program. She serves on the board of directors of the High Country Xeriscape Council of Arizona, and she researches and writes articles on the subject of water conservation through creative landscaping and climate-appropriate gardening techniques.

Mini-tour

Jo Anne Chilcoat's garden "Backwoods" will be open to the public from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sept 7 and 14. This garden "mini-tour" is sponsored by the High Country Garden club and a $2 donation will be collected at the gate. Follow Flowing Springs road off Highway 87 north of Payson to the community of Flowing Springs, and follow the signs.

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